יום רביעי, 30 באוקטובר 2013

The Bells Are Ringing: Return of the Bellbottoms

Following the article I wrote in BFF Fashion Blog about the fascinating and surprisingly long history of the bellbottoms, I decided to dedicate another blog post to the issue, and this time all in English for my non Israeli readers. So here goes:

My ultimate look for fall 2013: Pairing the metallic blue trend with an animal print and a pair of bellbottom jeans, flaring out at the knee. 

When we think of bellbottoms, the first image that comes to mind is a 1970's disco scene immersed in Lycra, puffy Afro hairdos, and wailing BG's melodies. But believe it or not - the flare bottom pants (or the "boot cut") pant wasn't invented by Mick Jagger in the middle of a cocaine snort session at New York's "Studio 54" in the 1970's. It was actually first mentioned in 1813 in the protocols of the USA Navy. Rough denim flare bottom pants, tight on the thighs, as not to disturb the sailors on their daily labors, were a part of the naval uniform in the US during the 19th century. The wide bottom allowed the sailors to fold the pants easily if they got wet or take them off over their boots (hence: "boot cut").

Rumor even has it that filling them up with air and tying them to the calf, also transformed the pants into instant floatation devices in case any of the men fell overboard…Don't try this at home!

Sailors of the 19th century- If they had only known they were starting a trend for centuries to come

The sailors of the 19th century never knew that less than a hundred years later they would become an inspiration for the international pioneer in women's fashion. Indeed, in 1917, while all of Europe was striving to bring World War I to a close, a Parisian boutique owner was enjoying her holiday on the beach of the French resort town of Deauville, when she suddenly noticed a group of sailors tugging a boat.
The young boutique owner- one, Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel- had been trying for years to liberate French women from the constraints of corsets and starched collars, but with no great success. It was in this pivotal moment that Chanel realized that a pair of flaring cotton pants, paired with a striped jersey shirt, modeled after sailors' uniforms, was the perfect outfit for women who could no longer afford to sit in their parlors and embroider but had to work to aid in the success of the home-front. 

Coco Chanel in a striped shirt and flaring pants- Classic and timeless  

The rebellious Parisian sewed and wore the suite, thus creating a look that was so classic and timeless that we can still see it to this day on the runways and the streets.

From 1917 to Fall 2013: Taking a page out of Chanel's book.

The masculine bellbottom pants continued being the symbol of women's liberation and equality between the sexes. In the 1930, the style was embraced by such prominent Hollywood screen sirens as Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. The 1930's pant was wide from the hip all the way down to the bottom, and it turned those outstanding actresses to feminist icons for years to come though also sparking rumors about their sexual orientation.

Katharine Hepburn- a Pioneer of unisex dressing

Nevertheless, the trend wouldn't fade away, and thirty years later it was still popular as it was reintroduced by the flower children of the 1960's. The Hippies saw the free lose cut of the pant as a symbol for social freedom and rebellion against traditional dress codes.

Flower power bellbottoms

But no decade celebrated the bellbottoms like the 1970's. It was then that this style practically became a pop culture star in its own right, as it was now worn by both men and woman in demonstration of the gradually blurring gender lines and the newly expressed openness within the homosexual community.

Breaking the gender barriers: Men and women in bellbottoms in the 1970's

Soon, the discos were filled with iridescent Lycra bellbottom wearing crowds. And though it was a horrendous trend which I pray never returns, some seventies icons did manage to make the bellbottom cool, like Charlie's Angels- the symbols of modern feminism- who wore bellbottom pants every time they chased dangerous criminals with their blown out feathered hair  waving in the wind.

Flaring pants as a symbol of tough femininity. On the right: Katherine Hepburn in the 1930's. On the left: "Charlie's Angels" in the 1970's

In the recent decade, the bellbottoms have been pushed aside and forgotten in favor of the skinny jeans, which I believe are the spawns of Satan as far as fashion is concerned. I mean, let's face it- it shortens the leg, clings to any extra ounce on the thighs, and generally speaking- is only suitable for women with long and slender legs. Nonetheless, I was overcome with renewed hope about two years ago when I first saw photos of Kate Moss modeling bellbottoms. And only a few months later, the bellbottoms made an appearance in the Chloé fall/winter 2013 show. 

First signs of a bellbottom comeback: Kate Moss 2012 and Chloé- fall/winter 2012-13

But the one who truly and officially resuscitated the bellbottom pants is Russian model turned fashion designer- Ulyana Sergeenko. Sergeenko, who is often referred to as the "Czarina of the fashion world"- greatly due to her tendency to dress in elaborate garments inspired traditional Russian costumes, with large embroidered skirts and elaborate headdresses, chose  the "Russian field worker" look (in the chicest way possible) for the Giambattista Valli show in Italy recently. In a photo Sergeenko posted on her Facebook page, she appears in pants, tight on the thigh and flaring out on the bottom, with suspenders and boyish short hair; a look which tells the world that the bells are once again ringing! 

The Empress's new pants:  Ulyana Sergeenko, backstage at the Giambattista Valli show

American fashion designer Marc Jacobs was the next to jump on the bandwagon when he too posted a photo on his Facebook page, showing him in his studio working on a bellbottom pant suit.  The photo, as Jacob mentioned in the photo caption, was taken in 2009, which means that the world's leading fashion designers already knew back then  that the comeback was right around the corner. And though the suit kind of makes me think of Poirot the sad clown, it is clear that bellbottoms are officially back.

Marc Jacobs studio. Fall/Winter 2009

It doesn't take a genius to know that if Marc Jacobs and Ulyana Sergeenko have set a trend, the rest of the world would soon follow suit (pun totally intended…) Indeed, white bellbottom pant suits were a prominent and refreshing sight at this year's fashion weeks, particularly in the Alberta Ferretii show and even in the debut spring/summer 2014 collection by stylist turned designer- Rachel Zoe. Zoe, who is known for her Boho Chic style embraced the bellbottoms wholeheartedly, and was even photographed walking around the streets of L.A. in flowy chiffon blouses and bellbottom jeans as though she had just come out of Woodstock.

Crisp white bellbottom pant suits. On the right: Alberta Ferrettii, fall/winter 2013-14. On the left: Rachel Zoe, spring/summer 2014.

 Sadly, the gospel has yet to reach my little Mediterranean home land, as the streets of Israel are still overflowing with women stuffing their thighs into binding skinny jeans.  But, being the bellbottom 1970's enthusiast that I am, I waited anxiously for the first autumn breeze to blow so that I could pull my favorite boot cut jeans out of the closet and put together what I consider to be the perfect fall ensemble. Now, all that's left is just to put on some funky music and get in touch with my inner groovy chick. 


*Disclaimer: Non of the photos in this blogpost, apart from those in which I am personally photographed, belong to me.